UK internship visa: a viable solution for interns of start-up companies?

When the Post Study Work (PSW) route was closed to new applicants in April 2012, it looked as though Britain had closed its doors to international graduates outside of EU. However, with the introduction of a new internship visa for students via the Tier 5 GAE category, the government has offered an exciting solution to recent international graduates wishing to undertake placements in the UK for up to 12 months.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Here below Migreat expert Zenia Chopra tells us more about the scheme’s benefits and how it can help small and startup businesses hire international talents. For detailed information regarding eligibility to this scheme, check our previous published posts on the topic, or just ask our experts on


A godsend visa for both international graduates and SMEs as the eligibility requirements are more flexible than other visas

Tier 5 GAE does not require the employer to hold a sponsor license to directly sponsor the migrant, thereby making it easy for SMEs and start-ups to hire migrant interns on a full time but temporary basis by offering them work experience programmes. Once the employer has identified their prospective candidate, they will need to get in touch with a licensed sponsor that has taken the initiative in setting up a Tier 5 GAE scheme who will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) with which the intern will apply for a visa.

A noteworthy avenue for international students already in the UK to explore

Recent graduates in the UK can switch from Tier 4 (General) to Tier 5 GAE if the role offered is directly relevant to their education. However, if they are offered a role that is not directly relevant, they may still be eligible for sponsorship but will need to leave the UK and apply for an entry clearance Tier 5 GAE visa.

Many students do not have access to funds of £945 for a consecutive period of 90 days to get a visa under Tier 5. However, this requirement can be lifted if the applicant is offered sponsorship by an A rated sponsor company. Such sponsor companies can issue a maintenance letter to cover the funds of the applicants. This is a huge benefit for recent graduates.

It does not require high salary levels and is quick to obtain, which makes it more alluring to potential employers, and startups!

Unlike Tier 2 there is no limit on the salary offered to migrants under this route, and National Minimum Wage meets the eligibility requirement.

The process of sponsorship is extremely quick to obtain. For, example, at Access Tier 5 we can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship within one working day of receiving all the paperwork (provided its correct and in line with the requirements of the Home Office).

Photo Credit: Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr

Finally, this is a great route to gauge employer candidate compatibility before both sides commit to a full-time permanent role under the Tier 2 scheme. This said, it should be remembered that this scheme cannot be used to fill job vacancies or bring unskilled labour to the UK. 


The Tier 5 GAE is something that every international student should have heard of, but sadly, despite the increasing sophistication on the part of international students to identify UK work opportunities, too few are aware of this option. This may be partly because university advisory services aren’t adequately equipped to offer advice to international students about all the available options and partly because of employer confusion over the level of awareness/understanding as to whether/how they can employ international students under the current complex immigration rules. It is also important to note the hesitancy on the part of employers given the current Home Office negative communications regarding international students as well as the increased penalties rendered under the Prevention of Illegal Working regulations.

The numbers of students currently making use Tier 5 GAE doesn’t reflect the appetite of international students to get work experience of working in the UK or the desire of employers to make use of their abundant skills, so, I personally believe that efforts are needed to make both international students and employees aware of this route and the benefits to both.

For more information on how to apply for the Tier 5 GAE Scheme, ask our experts online on

zenia-chopraThis guest blog post is provided to you by Zenia Chopra, Head of Sales & Marketing at Access Tier 5, overarching body of the Tier 5 GAE route and partner of

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